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As a user of a full frame camera, I have found the size and weight of lenses is quite high - typically  between 1 and 1.5 Kg and even more for super zooms.

With my cropped sensor A68  the lenses were much lighter and I could get away with the cheap Jessops tripod my family bought me one christmas.

With my A99 (and fetter lenses) I moved up to a Manfrotto Befree because of good reviews and the ability to fit inside my camera bag. However, I soon became frustrated that the stability when extended to eye level was disappointing, resulting in me not using the bottom sections of the legs and having to crouch and bend into awkward positions or relying on the back screen.

So I've been looking into an upgrade I could afford and came across 3 makes that I liked the look of: the ColoradoTripod Company: Series 2 looked good but was slightly short, the series 4 I was sorely tempted by as it reaches high, appears very rigid but slightly over my budget and difficult to get hold of in Britain.

The Artcise AS90C looks good and rigid, but is very bulky.

So I plumped for the Leofoto LS-323C. WOW! I put my A99 with 170-500mm lens on it, mounting the camera on the tripod and it was as rigid as my Manfrotto with the bottom leg sections pulled up. Mounting the lens on the tripod, as one would normally, It was as solid as a rock, the biggest amount of wobble was between the lens and camera body, not in the tripod! This was at full extension which is tall enough for me to aim at the sky without having to crouch or bend. It is the quickest tripod to set up, I have ever come across and comes with pro bits like spikes for the feet, accessory socket and hook to hang bag/weight for further stability.

I'd be interested to see how this compares with the more expensive, top brand names like the higher speed Manfrotto's, Gitzo, Three Legged Thing etc etc.

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I've used a lot of tripods, and your experience is similar to mine -- the stable ones are either large and/or heavy, or too small.

The ones that are the right size and weight and often too wobbly.

So I eventually settled on two -- both Gitzo's.  The WEEKENDER is very small and light when folded up, but is only good for 35mm cameras.  The legs flip out so you can get all the way to the ground!  I also have a REPORTER which is the same as the WEEKENDER, but with longer, heavier legs.  It's stable enough for my 4x5 cameras -- in a wind.  Both have Gitzo ball heads which I find easier to use.

Gitzo's and others can be expensive NEW, but really great tripods are very inexpensive USED.  The problem is figuring out what is best for you BEFORE you buy.

One easy way to add stability to any tripod is to drape your camera bag, etc. over the tripod head and legs -- before you attach the camera -- and if the lens has a tripod socket USE IT.

Edited by XKAES
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Talking of tripod heads, I use a Colorado Tripod Company Highline (small) on my Leofoto tripod and keep my Manfrotto 494 bullhead on my Befree.

Both move smoothly when the  friction adjuster is tightened appropriately. I've changed the plate on the Manfrotto from the quick release clamp (which I found awkward with my big fingers) to a screw clamp Arca clamp.

The Highline is solid with a 1/4 turn of the tightening knob - everything just feels so well engineered.

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